Sunday, September 6, 2009

Michigan turns to entrepreneurs to create new jobs

Sometime next year, Michigan will lose its 1 millionth job since the state's economy began its downward slide in mid-2000. With a frenzy born of desperation, the state is trying to rekindle the entrepreneurial spirit that made Dow, Kellogg and Ford household names.

That trio founded the state's famous chemical, cereal and auto companies a century ago. These days, the state is doing what it can to foster a new generation of innovation.

At universities and community colleges, in downtown office spaces and 15 "SmartZone" technology centers designed to spark collaborations between universities and industry, Michigan is working to encourage the creation of new industries to provide the middle-class jobs that made the state a mecca for generations of workers.

There's lots of room for improvement. The state ranked just 27th nationally in the 2008 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, lagging behind most western states and national leader Georgia in the survey's measure of adults creating businesses each month.

To boost its standing, the state has awarded millions of dollars to high-tech firms through its 21st Century Jobs Fund, and companies are sponsoring contests that reward new "green" technology ideas. Business incubators are sprouting up from the urban streets of Detroit to the snowy streets of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

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